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In Memoriam – February 2020

When a singing star dies in a prison cell as a guest of his dictatorial regime, you know it has been the kind of shitty month when music and politics intersect. The African state of Rwanda might have a respectable looking president and one of Africa’s economic success stories, but opponents of the regime die in its prison cells…

I was also sad to learn of the death on March 2 at 93 of James Lipton, presenter (and so much more) of Inside The Actors Studio. In his honour, I shall do the 10 Questions he asked of his guests in the comments section.

The National Treasure
Few musicians receive a state funeral with flags flying at half-mast, but that is the way South Africa’s government honoured Joseph Shabalala, the founder and leader of the (mostly) a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo after he died at the age of 78. His group came to worldwide notice when they used their distinctive harmonies to back Paul Simon on his (controversial) Graceland album and tour. They went on to win five Grammys and were nominated for countless more. Amid a punishing touring schedule, they released 50 albums since their hit debut in 1973.

The Last Chordette
The final surviving Chordette has lollipopped. Lynn Evans, who appeared on all the Cadence recordings — that is, the glory days of the vocal group which soundtracks the 1950s so well — reached the ripe age of 95 before Mr Sandman took her to join her erstwhile companions, the first of whom to die was Alice Buschmann in 1981.

The Guitar Cop
To funk aficionados, Harold Beane might be best-known for his guitar work on Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain and other tracks. He also wrote a few tracks for the collective, including the title track of the America Eats Its Young album. He also recorded and/or toured with the likes of Isaac Hayes (including the superb fuzz guitar solo on Walk On By), William Bell, Little Richard, Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding, Al Green and others. A trained policeman, Beane played a prank on his old pal George Clinton and his funky friends in Atlanta in 1996. Donning his police uniform, he went to the hotel where Clinton and entourage stayed. “I knocked on the door and put my finger over the peephole. They opened the door and all they saw was the police uniform and the badge… Man, I heard the toilet flushing!” I’m sure there was abounding mirth.

The Mazzy Star
With his other-worldy guitar scoring the haunting voice of Hope Sandoval on Mazzy Star’s delicate, almost dreamlike 1990s songs, David Roback (possibly unintentionally) influenced many acts that were to come. A product of LA’s post-punk Paisley Underground scene, Roback dabbled in psychedelic throwbacks, first with his band Rain Parade and Opal, and then to some commercial and a lot of critical effect with Mazzy Star.

The Drumming Sidekick
Few backing musicians get honoured to be the referenced in the title of a song of their boss. But Willie Nelson honoured his long-time drummer Paul English in his song Me And Paul, which recounts their adventures together (and also provided the title of Nelson’s 1985 LP). English first drummed for Willie in 1955 and joined the Willie Nelson Family permanently in 1966. And when he wasn’t drumming, English would be the heavy who’d extract overdue payments from recalcitrant club owners.

The Aceed Pioneer
With the passing at 56 of Andrew Weatherall, one of the pioneers of acid house has joined the great DJ booth in the sky. His work of mixing on the decks in clubs led to his production of Primal Scream’s groundbreaking Screamdelica album in 1991, which fused rock, indie and house music. Weatherall went to remix or produce for acts like New Order, Happy Mondays, Björk, Siouxsie Sioux and My Bloody Valentine.

Gang of Three
Coming in at the end of punk, British band Gang of Four were at the vanguard of the post-punk movement, with Andy Gill on the band’s distinctive guitar. As frank commentators on social ills, the group had a loyal fanbase but never broke in a big way as the BBC banned some of their records, and refused to playlist most of the rest. Their influence was massive, however, with acts like R.E.M, Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers citing the Gang of Four as major influences.

Star’s Suspicious Death
In Rwanda, Catholic gospel singer Kizitio Mihigo was a music star and a much-loved peace activist — and he met his end at 38 in a police cell, as a political opponent the president. Police say he died by suicide (the lazy cousin of pneumonia and slipping on a bar of soap). Orphaned in the genocide against Tutsis in 1994, Mihigo was a prominent activist for reconciliation, working for peace on his TV show, through his peace foundation, and through his music. As his music became increasingly political, he incurred the displeasure of Africa’s slimmest and least threatening-looking dictator, Paul Kagame.

One song in particular, titled IgisobanuroCy’urupfu, provided the straw that broke the tyrant’s back. It criticised his fellow Tutsi Kagame’s non-conciliatory policy of dealing with the legacy of the genocide. In it, Mihigo sings: “Even though genocide orphaned me, but let it not make me lose empathy for others. Their lives, too, were brutally taken. But that did not qualify as genocide.”

The short version given by Mihigo’s supporters is that Mihigo was set up to be tried for conspiracy against the president. Forced to plead guilty, he was convicted (let’s just say, Amnesty International was not impressed by the method by which Mihigo’s confession was extracted). In prison, he brought peace between rival ethnic groups there.  He was pardoned in 2018, and rearrested on 14 February for allegedly trying to illegally cross the border to Burundi, apparently after his life was threatened. Three days later he died in Kagame’s jail. As mentioned above, police say it was by suicide; Mihigo’s supporters say he was tortured to death.

 

Harold Beane, 73, funk/soul guitarist and songwriter, on Feb. 1
Mitty Collier – Share What You Got (1969, as producer)
Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (1969, on guitar)
Funkadelic – America Eats Its Young (1972, on guitar and as writer)

Andy Gill, 64, guitarist of English rock band Gang of Four, producer, on Feb. 1
Gang Of Four – At Home He’s A Tourist (1979)
Gang Of Four – To Hell With Poverty (1981)

Kofi B, Ghanaian musician, on Feb. 2

Ivan Král, 71, Czech-born musician and songwriter, on Feb. 2
Patti Smith Group – Dancing Barefoot (1979, as co-writer)
Ivan Kral – Winner Takes All (1995)

Andrew Brough, 56, member of New Zealand band Straitjacket Fits, on Feb. 4
Straitjacket Fits – Hail (1988)

Buddy Cage, 73, pedal steel guitarist, on Feb. 4
New Riders Of The Purple Sage – Dim Lights, Thick Smoke And Loud Loud Music (1972)
Bob Dylan – Meet Me In The Morning (1975, on steel guitar)

Ola Magnell, 74, Swedish pop singer and guitarist, on Feb. 6

Lynn Evans, 95, singer with vocal group The Chordettes, on Feb. 6
The Chordettes – Mr. Sandman (1954)
The Chordettes – Lollipop (1958)

Diego Farias, 27, guitarist of metal band Volumes, on Feb. 6

Délizia (Adamo), 67, Belgian singer, on Feb. 9
Délizia – Le proces de l’amour (1976)

Lyle Mays, 66, pianist and composer with the Pat Metheny Group, on Feb. 10
David Bowie / Pat Metheny Group – This Is Not America (1985)
Pat Metheny Group – Slip Away (1989)

Joseph Shabalala, 78, leader of South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, on Feb. 11
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain (1987)
Ladysmith Black Mambazo  – Township Jive (1990)
Ben Harper & Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Picture Of Jesus (2003)

Paul English, 87, country drummer with Willie Nelson, on Feb. 12
Johnny Bush – You Ought To Hear Me Cry (1967, as producer)
Willie Nelson – Shotgun Willie (1973, on drums)
Willie Nelson – Me And Paul (1985, on drums and as song subject)

Buzzy Linhart, 76, folk-rock singer and songwriter, on Feb. 13
Buzzy Linhart- Friends (1970, also as co-writer)
Richie Havens – Missing Train (1970, on vibraphone)

Jacob Thiele, 40, keyboardist of indie-rock band The Faint, on Feb. 13
The Faint – Desperate Guys (2004)

Prince Kudakwashe Musarurwa, 31, Zimbabwean singer-songwriter, on Feb. 15

Ron Thompson, 66, blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, on Feb. 15
Ron Thompson & His Resistors – 13 Women (1987)

Cavan Grogan, 70, Welsh rock and roll singer, on Feb. 15

Pearl Carr, 98, English singer, on Feb. 16
Teddy Johnson & Pearl Carr – How Wonderful To Know (1961)

Clyde Davenport, 98, old-time fiddler and banjo player, on Feb. 16

Andrew Weatherall, 56, English DJ, producer and musician, on Feb. 17
Happy Mondays – Rave On (Club Mix) (1989, as remixer)
Primal Scream – Movin’ On Up (1991, as producer)

KizitoMihigo, 38, Rwandan gospel singer, political activist, on Feb. 17
KizitoMihigo – A Dieu
KizitoMihigo – IgisobanuroCy’urupfu (2014)

Lindsey Lagestee, 25, country singer, in car crash on Feb. 17

Henry Gray, 95, blues pianist and singer, on Feb. 17
Little Henry Gray – Matchbox Blues (1953)
Howlin’ Wolf – Little Red Rooster (1961, on piano)

Ja’Net DuBois, 74, actress and singer, on Feb. 17
Ja’net DuBois & Oren Waters – Movin’ On Up (Theme of ‘The Jeffersons’) (1975)
Ja’net DuBois – Queen Of The Highway (1980)

Pop Smoke, 20, rapper, shot on Feb. 19

Hector, 73, French singer, on Feb. 19
Hector – La Femme De Ma Vie (1964)

Bob Cobert, 95, Film and TV composer, on Feb. 19
Bob Cobert – ‘War And Remembrance’ Main Title (1988, as composer)

Jon Christensen, 79, Norwegian jazz percussionist, on Feb. 20

Zoe Gail, 100, South African-born singer and actress, on Feb. 20

John S. Corcoran, 72, American folk singer and actor, on Feb. 21

Jahn Teigen, 70, singer of Norwegian prog group Popol Ace, on Feb. 24
Popol Ace – Today Another Day (1976)

David Roback, 61, songwriter, guitarist and founder of Mazzy Star, on Feb. 25
Rain Parade – No Easy Way Down (1984, on guitar & as writer)
Mazzy Star – Halah (1991, also as writer, co-producer)
Mazzy Star – Fade Into You (1993, also as writer, producer)

Claude Flagel, 87, French musician and producer, on Feb. 25

Nick Apollo Forte, 81, musician and actor, on Feb. 26

Simon Posthuma, 81, Dutch artist, fashion designer and musician as Seemon & Marijke, on Feb. 28
Seemon & Marijke – I Saw You (1971)

Mike Somerville, 68, guitarist of rock band Head East and songwriter, on Feb. 29
Head East – Never Been Any Reason (1975, also as writer)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    March 4th, 2020 at 07:26 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. halfhearteddude
    March 4th, 2020 at 07:26 | #2

    In honour of James Lipton, presenter (and so much more) of Inside The Actors Studio who died at 93 on March 2, I shall do the 10 Questions he asked of his guests on his show.

    1. What is your favorite word?

    2. What is your least favorite word? Yummy. For anyone over the age of 8, use a thesaurus to find a synonym for “yummy”.

    3. What turns you on? Confident efficency.

    4. What turns you off? Roadhogs.

    5. What sound or noise do you love? Church bells.

    6. What sound or noise do you hate? Jackhammers.

    7. What is your favorite curse word? Arsch mit Ohren (ass with ears)

    8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Karaoke bar operator.

    9. What profession would you not like to do? Donald Trump’s chief of staff

    10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? The karaoke bar is just down the corridor.

  3. Rhodb
    March 7th, 2020 at 22:10 | #3

    Thanks once again for all the hard work to put this series together

    Regards

    Rhodb

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